Panthers Rewind- The 2011 Panthers: Rookie Sensation

October 27, 2022

As part of our Panthers rewind series, our writer Emily Gates takes a look at Panther teams on the past, this time it’s 2011 Panthers and rookie star Cam Newton


What comes to mind when you think of the 2011 Panthers? Cam Newton’s rookie year and a new front office. Who was the coaching staff of the 2011 team? Who was on that roster? What was Newton’s rookie year like? What kind of year was this for Carolina? These questions arise when we think about Carolina in 2011.

What happened the previous year?

To understand the 2011 team we must understand the team from the previous year 2010 which was arguably the worst in franchise history . The Panthers went 2-14 in 2010 it was the final year for head coach John Fox after nine seasons with the team, and his staff along with quarterback Jimmy Clausen who has been ridiculed in Carolina as the teams worst ever QB after his one season as a starter in Carolina Clausen never found a home in the NFL.

The 2011 Off-season 

The teams owner Jerry Richardson went and fired everyone from John Fox’s staff but, not the general manager Marty Hurney he seemed to be the one who stayed. The front office made a great decision by hiring Ron Rivera as Fox’s replacement. In 2011 with the first overall pick Carolina picked their franchise quarterback in Cam Newton, which proved to be a move that would pay off for years after. 

Who was on the coaching staff of the 2011 Panthers? 

Who was this new coaching staff that would enter the 2011 NFL season? The head coach would be Ron Rivera, his offensive coordinator would be Rob Chudnizki, and the defensive coordinator would be now Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott. Oddly enough Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was a scout with the 2011 Panthers before eventually becoming Cam Newtons QB Coach. 

What was Newton’s rookie year like?

When Cam Newton was drafted by Carolina you could feel a sense of optimism, and that optimism proved to add up to something, during his first NFL start Newton became the first rookie QB to throw for 400 in his first NFL career game. Newton during his rookie year threw for then a rookie record 4051 yards and 21 touchdowns. Newton was also the third leading rusher on the 2011 Panthers, rushing for 706 and 14 touchdowns (per pro football reference)

What kind of year was this for the Panthers?

For the Carolina Panthers, 2011 was a fresh start year, they went 6-10. There were bumps in the road. But one thing fans remember was the rookie sensation Cam Newton. So at the end of the season, there was a sense of hope among the Panthers faithful.